An Amateur Writer's Frustration

I’m back to working on my novel this month and I am frustrated more than anything else. While I find some of the inconsistencies in my writing amusing, I am troubled by the basics that I should have thought through before I began. For me, it is the basic of tense.

My novel is in the present tense. I don’t know that I chose it deliberately. It is just what felt right to me at the time. Back when I was a member of a writer’s group, someone pointed out that my story's tense was problematic. I ignored him, choosing to focus on getting my story written down instead of dealing with something as "insignificant" and "easily fixable" as tense. But now, I fear that may have been a bad decision.

I spent most of the night reading a variety of opinions on the drawbacks of using the present tense. There are instances of manuscripts being rejected for using present tense and of readers being turned off by a story in present tense. If not done expertly and with purpose, it can make a story read more like a screenplay than a novel. I think that is the problem with my story. I am writing a novel.

So I tried to rewrite the first few paragraph in past tense tonight, but it just didn’t work. Maybe it is the mark of an amateur writer but I can’t seem to set as vivid of a scene in past than present tense. I don’t mind using “he said” and “she said” in dialogue but I like the active presence of a scene described with the present tense.

I am frustrated but again, I value more expanding subplots and filling in holes than resolving problems with tense. I'll just leave it for the springtime or whenever I've finally reached 100,000 words. At that point, I'll be kicking myself yet again for not minding the basics.


Back from the Brink

I almost died this weekend. Perhaps, that is an exaggeration but I blacked out at least twice on my way from the kitchen to my room early Saturday morning after the most unforgettable night of developing a "special relationship with my toilet" (thanks, A-M).

I’m blaming the almonds that my mother sent me though it could have easily been the peanut butter sandwich or veggie chili that I ate Friday. I’ve had food poisoning once before. It was about three years ago as a result of bad food/water at a work retreat in West Virginia. On that occasion, several people got sick. This time, it was just me. It was lonely not having anyone to commiserate with. Thankfully, I had just gone to the library and I was well-stocked with movies and books to comfort and distract me from my digestive tract. Floyd was a lifesaver as well.

A bruise on my shoulder, an almost healed-cut on my lip, and slight stomach unease are the only reminders of this weekend's unfortunate turn of events. I am still upset that all the glorious plans I had for this weekend were shattered. As part of my carpe diem in 2010 outlook, I had packed my weekend with an improv class, girl’s night, sleepover, volunteer opportunity, and NGA movie. Needless to say, I didn’t leave my house all weekend other than to crawl to the store for Gatorade.

I am thankful that I’m alive. I totally could have hit my head when I blacked out and fell (in the living room and on the stairs!). I was all very alarming. I am very thankful for all that my body does to protect me from harm. And even more thankful that it has the power to heal.


Normalcy Restored

I'm feeling much better today. I was so disinterested at work on Thursday and Friday, spending most of my time researching flights back to Isla and other warm, far away places. My anxiety peaked Saturday night until I had a long talk with Floyd. Now I'm back in my routine and feeling more relaxed and upbeat about what another year in D.C. will bring.

My conversation with Floyd was a much needed reality check. He pointed to the flaw in me letting "arbitrary" deadlines dictate my life. When I was 18, I wanted to be married by 25, have a house by 28, and kid or two by 30. When I hit 25, I relunctantly pushed back the timeline by 5 years, and at 28, I've anxiously pushed the timeline back by 10. It's easier, perhaps, for Floyd as a guy to avoid thinking in such a way, as he isn't bound by a biological clock and the double-standard that he'll be perceived as more handsome with age while I'll just continue to wrinkle and sag.

But he is right about one thing. I need to do away with my anxiety about turning 30 - and the value that I place on what I have or haven't accomplished by then.

While I still stand ready to "carpe diem" this year, I am less anxious to drop out or run away to experience the exotic and new "before I get old". There are still opportunities and challenges left for me in D.C., and I should earnestly take another year to seek them out. So that when (if ever) the time comes for me to leave D.C., I can leave in peace and without regret.


New Year, New Resolutions

Ah, this is my first post of the New Year. It is very probable that this will be my last year of blogging. I’ve been quite distracted by other things during the past year and I apologize for not blogging as regularly as I once did.

The holiday break passed well. I feel refreshed and relaxed though, perhaps, even more distracted than I was when I left.

I enjoyed hanging with my family and friends in Atlanta. It was the longest that I’ve been at home since I was in college. It is sad to recognize that I don’t plan on being home that much during the upcoming years. My life isn’t in Atlanta. Given my professional interest in federal policy, I have no reason to live in Atlanta. And I don't plan on moving home until my mother and aunt's age necessitates my presence. Thankfully, my mother accepts this and is content with my annual/semi-annual visits home--supporting my freedom to live where and how I choose.

Isla de Mujeres
I had a blast in Mexico with my friends. It was possibly one of the most restful and uplifting vacations I’ve ever had. The weather was milder than we had hoped it would be but that didn’t damper our spirits. The beach was beautiful, the food was great, and everyone was friendly. My friends and I made a pact to return to Isla before we turned 50, but I hope to return later this year—assuming that one of my friends heads back for the discounted scuba lessons that she was promised. Most importantly, the trip made me anxious for more international travel and recommitted me to visiting my friends in London.

As you can imagine, it was quite a shock to return to the coldness that is DC after lounging on the beach. I returned to work anxious for my next vacation but more than that anxious for a decision about my life. A change will come this year. I’m itching for a new challenge and I’m feeling a little wary getting sucked further into the Hill and the security of having a satisfying federal job, when I long to live in NYC and abroad.

Today, I dug up my old Peace Corps papers. I don’t care to go through the application process again, at least not now. But I am toying with the idea (again) of working abroad in some capacity. This usurps my desire to act—though it does encourage me to make the most out of the next year in that regard, in addition to spending well my time in D.C. To this extent, I’ve created a list of goals for 2010 in addition to a bucket list on 43 Things. I hope that it will help me keep in sight my desires for the next twelve months in addition to my long-term wishes that often get buried in the day-to-day.

If I had my way, this year would be my last in D.C. and on the Hill. It just seems so odd and perhaps, unwise to want to dropout for a bit given the economy and the fact that hundreds, even thousands, of people would kill for my job. Not to mention the fact that I love my job and find it rewarding. And I love and am thankful for the life that I've been able to build in D.C. D.C. has treated me well and who knows what sort of disappointment awaits me in NYC, Miami, or abroad.

Yet, I can’t seem to fight for long the desire to challenge myself and to finish my twenties (16 months and counting til 30) with a bang. The most important thing for me always is to seek happiness and peace in whatever form I see fit. And that's what I will strive to do.